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    Available in PDF Format | Longbourn.pdf | English
    Jo Baker(Author)

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Title, a Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction Book, a Miami Herald Favorite Book, and a Kirkus Best Book of the Year

The servants take center stage in this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice. While Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters fuss over balls and husbands, Sarah, their orphaned housemaid, is beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When a new footman arrives at Longbourn under mysterious circumstances, the carefully choreographed world she has known all her life threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended. Mentioned only fleetingly in Jane Austen's classic, here Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Regency England and, in doing so, uncovers the real world of the novel that has captivated readers' hearts around the world for generations.

"Masterful . . . From the same stream that fed Austen's literary imagination, Baker has drawn forth something entirely new and fresh." --"Miami Herald" "If you are a Jane Austen fan with a pronounced predilection for "Pride and Prejudice, "you will devour Jo Baker's ingenious "Longbourn "as the ambrosia from the Austen gods it is . . . It's an idea that could have felt derivative or sycophantic in its execution, and yet the novel is rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observation . . . Dive in and you might even forget to watch "Downton Abbey."" --"O "magazine "An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping . . . If Charlotte Bronte had taken up the challenge of a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice, "she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants' quarters." --Diane Johnson, "New York Times Book Review" ""Longbourn "is a bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level. This is a masterful twist on a classic . . . Much more than a frothy, "Downton Abbey"-like twist on Austen. This novel is moving, filled with suspense, and impressive for the sympathy with which it explores the drudgery of the servants' lives, as well as their heartaches. That said, there's plenty of Austen-worthy wit too." --"USA Today" "Delightful . . . The achievement of Baker's reworking is that Sarah is no mere foil for Elizabeth Bennet; her notions of individual agency and the pursuit of happiness push more forcefully against the class and social strictures of her time than any character in Austen's novel. The result is a heroine whom it's impossible not to root for." --"The New Yorker"" ""A witty, richly detailed re-imagining of "Pride and Prejudice . . . "Fans of Austen and "Downton Abbey "will take particular pleasure in "Longbourn, "but any reader with a taste for well-researcA Best Book of the Year Selection: "New York Times "100 Notable, "Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews"Rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observations. . . . If you are a Jane Austen fan . . . you will devour Jo Baker s ingenious "Longbourn.""O, The Oprah Magazine"Original and charming, even gripping, in its own right."The New York Times Book Review" Masterful."The" "Miami Herald" A witty, richly detailed re-imagining. . . . Fans of Austen and "Downton Abbey" will take particular pleasure in "Longbourn," but any reader with a taste for well-researched historical fiction will delight in Baker s involving, informative tale."People"A bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level."USA Today"Delightful."The New Yorker" A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right, a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart."The Guardian "(London)[A] fitting tribute, inventing a touching love story of its own."The Wall Street Journal" A freshly egalitarian reimagining."Vogue" [Baker s] writing style draws admirably from Austen s.Minneapolis "Star Tribune" Engaging and rewarding."The" "Washington Times" "Longbourn" is told with glee and great wit."The Daily Beast" The Bennet family s servants imagined by Baker have richly complicated lives and loyalties. . . . Baker deserves a bouquet. . . . Refreshing."The" "Seattle Times" There s a finale so back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead romantic, someone should render it in needlepoint."Entertainment Weekly" Excellent. . . . In Sarah the housemaid, Baker has created a heroine, living in the same house as Elizabeth Bennet, who manages to shine despite Elizabeth s long literary shadow."Christian Science Monitor" Lively. . . . Baker s vivid passages about the natural world, working conditions and even of sorrow are . . . well detailed and articulated."The Plain Dealer" "Longbourn" is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. . . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end. . . . Beautiful. Wendy Holden, "Daily Mail"(London)Inspired. . . . This is a genuinely fresh perspective on the tale of the Bennet household. . . . A lot of fun."Sunday Times"(London)This clever glimpse of Austen s universe through a window clouded by washday steam is so compelling it leaves you wanting to read the next chapter in the lives below stairs rather than peer at the reflections of any grand party in the mirrors of Netherfield."Daily Express"(London)Impressive. . . . An engrossing tale we neither know nor expect."Daily Telegraph"(London)"A Best Book of the Year Selection: New York Times 100 Notable, Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews

4.4 (11671)
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Book details

  • PDF | 331 pages
  • Jo Baker(Author)
  • Vintage Books; Reprint edition (17 Jun. 2014)
  • English
  • 4
  • Romance
Read online or download a free book: Longbourn

Review Text

  • By Mary Ann on 30 May 2017

    A brilliant work!It's been wonderful to read a work set in the Regency which is actually about the common people - ie, the well over 98 per cent of the population who were not members of the gentry or connected to the 300 odd titled aristocrats.The daily grind of servants in a genteel but not greatly wealthy establishment, the menial work, the sordid nature of much of it, including emptying bedpans, washing underwear and menstrual napkins,is unsparingly depicted.So, if briefly, is the misery caused by the destruction of villages through the enforced enclosures. This, like so many ugly details of early nineteenth century life, is determindly ignored by most writers on the Regency era.Sarah is a strong and lovable heroine. Even Elizabeth Bennett doesn't outshine her. The male lead is also sympathetic and believable - and so is his rival.As someone who has never much liked Darcy, I was delighted by the treatment of him in this, the servants' perspective.However, the final impression of this story is not of squalor and sadness, but of hope and regeneration.Highly recommended, particularly for those who have a romanticised view of how life was for most people in this era, saying such things as: 'If only I'd lived then' and 'I was born in the wrong age'.

  • By J. Ang on 11 February 2015

    An alternative take on the goings-on in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", a 'simultan-uel' if you will, imaginatively seen through the eyes of the help at the Bennet household. Sarah, the teenage housemaid, takes centrestage, and the action happens mostly in the kitchen and servants' quarters while Elizabeth, Jane and their sisters deal with their dramas upstairs in the drawing rooms and parlour. Fans of the original novel will take pleasure in matching the events with this version, from the giddy excitement at the Bingleys' arrival at Netherfield, to Collins's clumsy courtship of Elizabeth, to Lydia's elopement with Wickham, the latter given a meatier and more sinister role that sees him meddling with the lives of the central characters in Baker's narrative.It is to Baker's credit that she keeps more or less to the tone and language of a Regency novel, and she awakens the reader's consciousness that someone needs to be laundering the Bennet girls' many dresses, curling their hair, sewing rosettes to their dancing shoes, and stoking the fires before dawn, getting chilblains and blisters doing all those chores to make the narrative of "Pride and Prejudice" possible. I found it especially sobering that Liz's memorable trek across the country to be with a sick Jane in P&P that was held up as evidence of her gutsy and selfless spirit came at a cost to her servants, who had to attend to her mud-caked boots and soiled skirts.With such exhausting detail to remain faithful to Austen's novel, there is a good chance that the novel could fall flat on its face. However, Baker's work succeeds because she is able flesh out her characters well and incorporate them seamlessly into the narrative. Sarah is fully-realised as a budding girl who has aspirations which are contained by the stark realisation of her station in life. The mysterious James Smith, too, who comes to be the Bennet's footman, has a story entwined with the Bennet household and that gives a surprisingly fresh angle to one of the characters originally encountered in P&P. The second half of the novel also turns its focus on the war, which casts a harsh light on the significance of the militia who are stationed in the village, and contrasts itself from the light and bubbly narrative of P&P.

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